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Volume 23 No. 17
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Rams tap Corona as first sponsor in L.A.

Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.

The Los Angeles Rams have landed Corona as their import beer sponsor, the first of eight to 10 new partnerships that the relocated team expects to announce before its first regular-season game next month.

The three-year deal is the first major sponsorship the team has closed since winning NFL permission in January to move from St. Louis. Neither side would discuss financials, but similar NFL team deals are priced in the mid-seven figures annually.

“Our strategy is to have a smaller number of what we are calling ‘homecoming partners,’” said Michael O’Keefe, the Rams executive in charge of corporate partnerships. “These are companies we hope to grow with and turn the page when we start to look at Inglewood.”

Photo illustration: MICHAEL BEHRENS / ST. LOUIS BUSINESS JOURNAL

The NFL has prohibited the Rams from selling sponsorships in their new Inglewood stadium, scheduled to open in 2019, until it has determined whether a second team will join them there. So the club is cutting three-year deals for its interim time in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where commercial inventory is largely controlled by the University of Southern California.

Though MillerCoors has a heavy presence in the stadium by virtue of its deal with the primary college football tenant, Corona secured most of the Rams game-day assets it considered important, including availability of Corona Extra and Corona Light in cans and on draft at portable stands throughout the stadium, as well as a beach-themed tailgate area outside the gates. It also will have temporary signs in the end zone on Rams game days and will sponsor in-stadium replays.

Among other elements, Corona will use Rams logos on its packaging in-market and will serve as presenting sponsor of Los Rams during the NFL’s Hispanic Heritage Month program. Corona also will be presenting sponsor of the Rams’ sold-out preseason game against Dallas on Saturday, tying the beer to the team and market with a celebratory theme that fits its broader “Find Your Beach” brand campaign.

“Being able to capture the energy that consumers are feeling right now as the Rams return was important to us,” said John Alvarado, vice president of marketing for Corona Extra. “Being able to champion that spirit is very much in line with our brand strategy and equities. We’re finding the moments consumers are looking for to celebrate with friends and family.”

The Rams expect to sign a domestic beer sponsor, as well. They have been in negotiations with Anheuser-Busch, which held rights when the team was in St. Louis.

“We feel really confident that with what we’ve been able to secure we won’t get overwhelmed [by the domestic sponsor],” Alvarado said. “Consumers prefer Corona. They prefer our portfolio. Given the opportunity to choose it, they will.”

Within sports, among its other sponsorship deals, Corona has been prominent in boxing and Mexican soccer and, until last year, was the top sponsor of the ATP tour.

The fact that both Corona Light and Corona Extra will be available in 24-ounce cans and on draft in the stadium is notable because, up until now, Corona Extra has been poured in only four U.S. markets. The brand will use the new sponsorship to promote the rollout of Corona on draft in bars and restaurants throughout Southern California.

“The venue is certainly part of these deals, but we have really focused on assets that live outside the venue,” O’Keefe said. “Not that game day is not important, but there is so much that can be activated across retail, with brands in general and through media.”

The Rams hired Legends Global Sales to handle much of their sponsor inventory as they get up and running in Los Angeles. Legends made the initial contact with Corona, Alvarado said, but O’Keefe said the Rams executive in charge of new business, Jane Normansell, negotiated the deal for the team.